Arthur Porter was arrested Monday afternoon at an airport hotel in Panama City on an international warrant issued in February 2013, charging him with fraud and laundering the proceeds of a crime, as well as other allegations.
Porter, who had received prestigious appointments from different levels of government and was nearly honoured with a street in his name, is accused of being at the heart of a scandal involving the $1.3-billion McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) superhospital project in Montreal, the largest of its kind in Canada.
An alleged $22.5-million fraud linked to the construction of the superhospital is the reason for the warrant.
Porter and his wife Pamela were stopped by authorities at the Tocumen airport on Sunday night.
His wife, who was wanted for laundering the proceeds of a crime and conspiracy, was taken into custody immediately, but Porter avoided being arrested by presenting the arresting officers with his diplomatic passport for Sierra Leone.
“We had some doubts whether we could make the arrest or not,” said Alexis Munoz, the deputy commissioner of Panama’s Department of Judicial Investigation, in an interview with CBC's Catherine Cullen in Panama.
Munoz said that after consulting with the Nassau prosecutor’s office, they decided to arrest him the next day.
He was arrested in Panama City en route from Nassau to Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation off the coast of Venezuela.
He said Porter was calm at the time of his arrest. “He told me that all the information is mistaken and it’s not true the charges against him. He told me that,” Munoz said.
The 57-year-old oncologist had diagnosed himself with stage 4 cancer and was living in Nassau, the Bahamas, where he operated a clinic.
He had told Canadian media in the past he was too sick to return home to Montreal to face his charges.
Today, Porter was seen carrying an oxygen bag and appeared to be in bad health.
Munoz, however, said that at the time of Porter's arrest, he did not appear to be sick.
In a video taken Monday, he didn't appear to have his oxygen bag with him.
“If you see the person, he doesn’t look sick, but when you talk to him he will tell you his sickness. He told me that he is suffering lung cancer, very grave,” he said.
Porter is expected to return to Canada to face charges within a week.
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